We all get frustrated by how much time kids want to spend playing online games, but do we do anything about it? In China, that decision has been taken out of parents’ hands and new government restrictions limit kids to only three hours of online gaming per week. They’re allowed an hour on Friday, Saturday and Sunday between 8 – 9 pm.
So, would this kind of rule around online gaming restrictions work here in Ireland, and would we embrace them?
My 8-year-old has a Nintendo Switch, which is his prize possession, but we do limit his time on it. I have the Nintendo Switch Parental Controls app and it’s very handy for setting a daily playtime limit, checking how long he’s been playing for, and notifying him when his time’s up (which saves me having to nag him).
Funnily enough, it was his idea for me to download it. I think he actually likes me putting a time limit on his playtime because it means he appreciates it more. In my opinion, every parent is different and every child is different so I don’t think it should be up to the government to make this one size fits all call.
What’s quite interesting about the ruling in China is that the restriction applies specifically to online gaming. What about social media and other screen time? As adults, we know how addictive Instagram can be, so should this be thrown into the pot too? Some apps in China have a Youth Mode so parents can put in their own limits, which sounds similar to the Switch app. In addition, I use the Screen Time setting on my iPhone to set downtime between 8 pm-7 am and to limit the amount of time I spend on social media apps. When we get my son a phone (not for a few years yet), I plan to use these settings for him too.
TV time is often considered to be less harmful than gaming, but depending on what you’re watching, it could be equally as addictive. Have you ever seemed unable to stop yourself from watching the next episode, then the next one, and then the next one? Somehow, I don’t think it’s accidental that Netflix is so binge-worthy, after all; it’s designed that way.
However, while we can laugh and relate to other adults about our obsession with the latest must-watch series, it wouldn’t be such a laughing matter if we sent our child to school bleary-eyed because they didn’t want to turn off the TV. I had considered allowing my 8-year-old to have a TV in his room so he could enjoy his own shows in the evening without him having to watch 'Peppa Pig' on repeat (my toddler always hogs the remote). However, on reflection, I’m going to hold off. It’s a big enough job keeping on top of his Nintendo Switch time without having to worry that he’s glued to the TV at bedtime when he should be getting stuck into a great book.